About twenty years ago, two professors named Richard Bandler and David Grinder, one whose specialty was linguistics, and the other whose field was math, wanted to know why some college freshmen seemed to do well academically while others struggled. And, oh yeah, they pondered this question from the perspective that the students in their study were all of comparable ability, and they weren’t being affected by extra-curricular activities, partying, or any other outside influence. What that (as uncomfortable as it may be for those of us in the teaching profession) left them to consider, was that the only variable in the situation was the instructor. And once they quickly ruled out the conclusions that many people would jump to; factors such as laziness, out-and-out incompetence, or apathy, they looked deeper into to what could be affecting the ability of some students to learn and understand. Then, with an understanding of the fundamental concepts of communicating, Bandler and Grinder applied that knowledge to their study, and formed the basis for a science that became known as Neuro Linguistic Programming…NLP.
Programming=Information Processing System
The underlying principle of NLP is that we all, as individuals, have different processes of communicating, and understanding others when they communicate with us. Our brain employs a specific language for processing information. And, on one hand, when there is a match between two people in communication, the teaching and learning process works well. On the other hand, if there is a mismatch between two people (an instructor and a student) in communication, then the learning process can be negatively affected.
It was no surprise that Bandler and Grinder listed the three fundamental dominant information processing methods we employ when communicating as:
Further studies have showed that the most dominant information processing characteristic is visual, with approximately 65% of the population employing that process ahead of the two others to communicate. It has also been determined that auditory learners make up only about 15% of the population, while 20% of us are in the kinesthetic category.
What this boils down to for students is that 65% of them learn best through visual processes, which are fundamentally direct and one-step, such as watching others demonstrating, and having their sight stimulated by colors and illustration. When it comes to auditory learning, though, it becomes a two-step process because it involves a person listening intently, and then developing their own images internally in order to understand fully. And, for a kinesthetic learner, it means they don’t really “get it” until they can touch and feel what they’re making an effort to understand.
Of course, from an overall teaching and learning perspective, we all employ the three basic forms of communication. Bandler and Grinder’s point was that while that is understood, their work showed that each of us leans heaviest on one system as our most dominant information processing characteristic while employing the other two as a supplemental support system. And that’s where the match/mismatch factor comes into play. When an instructor is on a roll and in the zone, the majority of their presentation will be from the perspective of their most dominant information processing characteristic, and they will gain the most rapport with students who share that the same dominant characteristic. For those students who have a different dominant characteristic, gathering information and getting it all aligned in order to understand a concept or a process can be more difficult. Unless….an instructor considers two factors in the communication process:
1. What their dominant information processing characteristic is.
2. How they can adjust to provide an opportunity for increased matching in the communication process.
The simplest way to begin understanding the science of NLP and the three basic information processing systems is to realize how verbal cues can serve as an indicator of where an individual is coming from relative to communication. If you were to ask the simple generic question, “Do you understand?” and the response you get is, “I see what you mean,” then that person is most likely dominantly visual.
If the answer to the question is, “I hear you,” it could indicate that the person you’re asking is dominantly auditory. And, a kinesthetic person’s response would likely be something along the line of, “I think I’ve got a feel for what you’re talking about.”
Keep in mind that a verbal cue is, as pointed out above, only the very beginning of understanding the science of NLP, communication between instructors and students, and establishing rapport. There is much more to know, and it goes much deeper than simple information processing; into understanding how individuals make sense of the world around them in different ways, and beyond that, into counseling. Bandler and Grinder’s work is well documented, but frankly, many of those texts are, to put it politely, not the most interesting reading on the subject. Beyond those resources, there are several books and audio programs that provide information on a simple and direct approach to NLP, and how it is used to communicate effectively.
Until Next Week…
Learn from yesterday…..Live for today……Look forward to tomorrow